Diabolical - Interview
Their latest release, "Eclipse" is a first full-length since 2013 "Neogenesis". In the meantime, we had only "Umbra" EP, which contained only 4 tracks, one of them being basically a musical theme to some spoken word. The band's line-up stayed the same, apart from their new drummer, Jonathan. But the style of the band changed quite significantly and from my review of the album you can read that I like that change. I can also tell you that this material presented live is also very impressive, with Widda providing as powerful growling as it sounds in the studio and Carl doing very well with clean vocals. Carl is also the person who convinced me to come to their show at Proxima Club in Warsaw on 7th April and it was definitely worth it. I was going to this show to watch Diabolical most of all and the set was fantastic. It started with "Requiem", then "Failure" and "Betrayal", after that from "Neogenesis" they played "Into Oblivion" and "Metamorphosis" and ended the show with "Black Sun" and "We are Diabolical". Even if Dan had to skip this show, the band managed very well and provided fantastic show on stage. I managed to talk to Carl himself after the show and you can read the transcript below. Don't forget to check out my review for "Eclipse" and after that, listen to this album, because it's fucking great.
First of all, thanks a lot for your time. So now you're after two shows in Poland during that tour. What are the impressions?
Carl Stjärnlöv: Poland is always great, we played many times in Poland. I love to play here, obviously I have a thing for Poland and Polish women (laughs - side note: Carl's girlfriend is Polish, and Carl actually speaks Polish quite well).
That setlist that was on the show today, have you chosen the same list of songs for each show on this tour?
Yeah, it's the same setlist for the entire tour. It's basically about to fit the songs into exactly 40 minutes for our slot. We have some longer songs that we couldn't add, we only have shorter songs for this set. It was basically a matter of fitting it, luckily most of the songs are from Eclipse, which is suitable.
I was thinking that "Hunter" would be probably a difficult track to play live.
No, we played 'Hunter' many times, it was actually the first song we started to play live from Eclipse.
It has quite "experimental" ending, almost a bit jazzy.
Yes, but also, it's a bit long. It's over 6 minutes and that's why we couldn't put it on this set.
By the way, how was the overall impression of the tour? Have you met any of these bands on tour before?
No, they're new friends. It's been a great time, together with them. Time has just been flying away on tour, we have good time together, everything's working very smooth, we had really good shows, I'm really happy about it.
Let's talk about that long period between two albums, "Neogenesis" and "Eclipse".
Don't forget we released Umbra between.
Yes, but it was only 4 tracks.
Yes, we thought it would be a good idea to release an EP, the rest of the music industry is focusing more and more on EPs and singles. We thought "OK, maybe that's a good idea", it wasn't.
No, it wasn't. Because metal scene is still very hooked up on album format, people want full-length albums. We didn't get much attention for the Umbra EP, it wasn't as successful as we had hoped. So, we won't likely release any more EPs any time soon. I mean the effort that it took in the studio whether it's 4 songs or 8 songs, it's still a big effort. Maybe not as big as with full album, but still a big effort. It was almost like an album project to make that EP. So long story short - we won't do it again.
Talking about "Umbra", the track called "Tremor" - where does the spoken word come from?
It's Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher, if you Google him you'll find a lot of audio clips and seminars back from the 70s, when he was talking about, for example in this particular track he's talking about fear and how it impacts us, humans, in not so good ways. It's very interesting, I've read books from him and when we did that track, we... I don't know exactly how we came up with... Oh yeah, I think Sverker came up with "Hey, maybe we should have some kind of spoken thing on it" because it was like something was missing to the instrumental part. I found those Krishnamurti seminars and we ended up using that.
Now comparing "Neogenesis" and "Eclipse", the whole lyrical theme with "Neogenesis" was all about destruction, apocalypse and something new growing out of it, like a new beginning. "Eclipse" seems to be slightly different, tracks seems to be pointing out very negative sides of humanity, is that what was the idea behind this?
Sort of, it is about dark side of humanity.
For example, the first track "We are Diabolical", it seems like the word "diabolical" used here is something negative. Quite unusual thing to use a word that is your band's name as something negative.
Yes, because on the surface it might seem that we're singing about ourselves in that song but we're not (laughs). If you check out the lyrics, it really means something different. The overall concept of the album was that I really want people to reflect on the lyrics themselves, I don't want to explain too much. But it is about the darker side of humanity and it's also a reflection of our times that we're living in. And I really hope the listeners will take the time to reflect upon how they fit into this situation that we are in right now. "We are Diabolical" is a lot about self-destructive nature of us, humans. To me it's almost like we're pre-programmed to fuck things up for ourselves. It seems that we have some built-in qualities that prevent us from prospering, in many ways, both personally and as species. It's quite saddening. But it's an observation I made, it's not very hard to make that observation, it's quite obvious.
Yes, nowadays news is mostly grim.
Yes, but that's another thing you also shouldn't be fooled by shit you see and read around you, because media is very focused on very particular things, if you just look at the news for example, it seems that we're living in the "end of days" of humanity which we might be, but it's not as bad as media portrays it. Because they only focus on very negative things, but there are many aspects of human existence that are going in the right direction, actually. But those things don't make nice headlines, like "Education rates in the borough are up" or "Poverty is down". Those are not good headlines. It's more like "40 people killed in a suicide bomb attack". That's better headline. It's also interesting why that would make a better headline, it's also psychological thing that people want to hear about bad stuff, but why the fuck would you want to do that? I don't really know.
Speaking of lyrics - "Neogenesis" and the book coming with it - what was the idea behind that? How much do the chapters match with the lyrics? Do they touch exactly the same subjects?
It is in a way the same subject, the chapters of the book are sort of an idea that I had that they would represent the songs from the album but in another way, in prose, of course. There is a story, it's like a short novel, each chapter is connected to each song, but the lyrics they sort of have another take on the same subject matter that the book has. "Neogenesis" was a bit more philosophical, but also it was esoteric in a way maybe, and overall I think it was very successful project, creatively and conceptually, but I think it was maybe a bit too heavy for some people to wrap their heads around it, a lot of people went into it like "Wow, great format, it's a great music, oh and the book, oh I don't think I want to read that much, it's so many pages, grr" (laughs). Or even if they did read it, it's not like I've been having philosophical discussions with people on every show after "Neogenesis", because I think it was maybe a bit too heavy for people. And that's why on this record I wanted to be more direct and that's why I didn't write the book for this album. I wanted to speak more directly with the lyrics, be more straight to the point and as you said with your interpretation of "We are Diabolical" and other lyrics on "Eclipse, this is easier to digest and wrap your head around it and that's what I wanted to achieve. Even though I like when things to be difficult to understand, when I read books or watch movies, I want it to be a challenge. I don't think everybody enjoys those kinds of challenges. I wanted to mix it up this time and make something that is more easily digestible.
Do you also have a chapter entitled "Ex" (for the instrumental track on the album - M.)?
Yes, this one doesn't have any lyrics, but it has a chapter, too.
"Umbra" was a transition in a musical sense, too. "Requiem" was a little hint towards what could be expected on the next album. What was the idea behind putting this track on "Eclipse" as well?
It was just to use the resources that we have and because "Umbra" didn't get the attention we thought it deserved and "Requiem" was a really good song we wanted to give it a new chance, to have more people to hear it.
Did you have any other tracks that were waiting that long to appear on the album?
Yes, we did. Some of the riffs or parts in songs on "Eclipse" have been around for long time. The verse of "Failure" is really, really old, I think I had that riff laying around for maybe 10 years or so.
Yes, "Failure" sounds probably closest to what was on "Neogenesis".
Yes, it's definitely faster. But also "The Fire Within", we had a version of "The Fire Within" that we considered for "Neogenesis", but that version, we weren't entirely happy with it, something was missing, so we did a new version and thought "Yes, this is it.", so we kept it for "Eclipse".
Since you mentioned those tracks were a bit old, did you have that idea of putting clean vocals there from the very beginning?
I don't think so because "The Fire Within" is so old, so that was before we even thought about it at all. So that song has evolved through many different stages into what it is today.
I'm also asking about it because it's unusual for a band with such stable line-up to make a change to their style. Was it a mutual decision or was it just one of you that came up with that idea?
It was mutual. I think it comes from our backgrounds as musicians and music consumers, from what we like, what we have been listening to over the years. To us it was a natural thing, I think the very first clean part we have was in "Requiem"... No, it wasn't, it was already on "Neogenesis", "The Fields of Nihil" must have been the first. So, I don't remember quite exactly how it came about, but it's like a natural thing, probably we were just touring around with the song and thought "Oh, maybe we should add some clean vocals to it. Who can do it? I don't know." (laughs) We just figured it out along the way. And one of my favourite albums of all times is "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd, which has a lot of vocal harmonies all over the place, sort of the thing that we're trying to do and Pär Johansson, our previous drummer, he's also into King Crimson and stuff like that. Sverker also likes that kind of thing, so it was a natural kind of thing. It wasn't like a decision "Now we need to sell out. Let's do the sell-out things on the next record and people will think we're sell-outs. Let's do clean vocals! People hate that, let's do that!" It was more like "Let's see if it fits." And we tried that, and it fit.
Now that you mentioned drummer - how did you find Jonathan, your new drummer?
Facebook (laughs). No, not really, we were just looking around, we were having a session drummer as Pär was unavailable, a year and a half ago. We had a list of about 40 drummers, it's really hard to find talented people that are available and willing to play with you in a band, unless you're Slayer. Well, even they have problems to find people when they need them. We were trying for long time before we got those session drummers, Janne Jaloma, who is now in Dark Funeral, Frank Schilperoort, who is now playing with Incantation. They were playing with us for some time, but after that list of 40 drummers I think that when we needed a drummer Jonathan was one the first guys that we found just looking for drummers around Stockholm. We knew about the band he was playing in, checked some clips on YouTube and contacted him through Facebook. We asked him "Do you want to play in our band?" and that was it. Luckily, he's very talented and really great guy and it all worked perfectly.
Have you used any different equipment recording this album since you decided to change style?
Not really, actually. We're stuck to the same formula, our guitar sound is based on Peavey 5150, which we had for many years. We really like it and I don't think we're going to change that, because it fits us really well. Even now we moved over to a digital simulator equipment, we have simulations of the same amplifier. But we usually mix it up with some Mesa Boogie or Engel stuff, so we have two layers of guitars. Sverker is producing stuff, so it also has a sort of Sverker's stamp on it. Maybe we're going to try and experiment next time we haven't talked about it. So far, we just try to improve on what we have already done. No other kind of equipment.
Do you use the same equipment recording the album and then playing on tour?
No, not really. Like I said, we have Peavey 5150 amplifiers, physical ones, in the studio. We used to have them on tour as well, but we moved over to actually Line 6 POD HD500x, we were touring around with Kemper as well, but we settled on the PODs, because they have floorboards, we could get a sound that was really, really close to the 5150s we have. And they're not so expensive so that we're not gonna cry when the airline fucks them up, we can just replace them then. So that's what we have right now. It's sort of replica of what we have in the studio. And in terms of other equipment - bass: we used Ampeg rig in the studio and also Darkglass pedal, we've got Darkglass with us on tour, there's often Ampeg rig on show, it's very usual. Same but different as well.
Are you thinking about your own, custom, signature guitar in future?
I really haven't thought of that.
Do you tweak your guitars in any way?
No, not really. I have an Eclipse, surprise! (laughs), I have an ESP Eclipse, fittingly enough, which I really, really like and had for many years now. But the next thing that I might consider is, you know, these new fancy Evertune bridges, it's now more popular to have guitars that have a bridge that lets the guitar stay in tune.
When does the tour end and what are your plans after that?
We have 3 more shows after this, in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and then we are playing like a warm-up show for Inferno in Oslo on Easter weekend or before that. Then we're playing at Stockholm's Slaughter, the festival in Stockholm and then we have quite a lot of plans, actually, touring plans, but nothing is settled yet.
And when do you think you might start working on the next record?
I hope we can be quicker this time. We have a habit of being perfectionists, but I hope we can start pretty much earlier for the next record.
Does that mean you haven't got anything yet?
And I also wanted to ask if you were thinking of releasing some DVD since you are touring that intensively?
No, not really. We actually did some live recordings on this tour, we're going maybe to do just some short YouTube clips, no live DVD plans right now.
Any last words?
Come to see us in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, come to the Inferno show and Slaughter Festival in Stockholm. And if not there then see you somewhere else on tour! Thank you very much. Dziękuję bardzo!
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